By Arielle Dollinger
Northport-East Northport Board of Education Trustee Lori McCue arrived home last Wednesday to 30-40 picketing schoolteachers outside.
The trustee said the teachers, dressed in black and members of the United Teachers of Northport (UTN) union, gathered outside of McCue’s house in protest of a still-unsettled contract – a matter that brought a similar quantity of teachers to school board member Donna McNaughton’s house one week earlier.
“I think it’s a little bit uncomfortable that professionals in our district feel like it’s acceptable to go to board members’ houses,” said McCue, who has two children currently attending school in the district. Her 14-year-old daughter was inside the house at the time of the picketing.
The act seemed “foolish,” McCue said, because the union had already declared impasse and a mediation session is scheduled for Dec. 8.
According to a Nov. 9 post titled “Negotiations Update #14” on the UTN website, mediation was to start in January until “UTN leadership and our NYSUT Labor Relations Specialist pressed for an earlier date.”
“That pressure, along with the recent displays of unity of the membership, was instrumental in expediting the process,” reads the post, written by a site administrator.
UTN President Antoinette Blanck did not return calls for comment by press time on Tuesday.
McNaughton, acknowledging that the protesters were within their rights when they walked around her court earlier this month, said that she understands the teachers’ concern.
“At the end of the day, we have to come up with a contract that both sides can live with, and no contract is exactly what either side wants; it’s a compromise,” McNaughton said. “And compromises take time and energy.”
The teachers are the district’s “best asset,” she said, and financial constraints that came with the 2-percent tax cap have been an obstacle.
“The financial constraints are different than they’ve ever been and that’s hard,” she said. “Contracts are in fact different than they used to be because of the 2-percent tax cap.”
The picketers arrived at McNaughton’s around 4 p.m. that day and walked McNaughton’s court for about half an hour, she said.
School board President Julia Binger said that the protests seem “basically unnecessary and, for the board members whose houses they’ve gone to, annoying.”
“I don’t think that it’s productive,” Binger said. “It’s not as if there’s nothing happening; we’re just waiting for that mediation session, which is pretty soon.”
According to McCue, this protest is not the first in the district with the goal of settling a contract, but the only similar instance that came to McCue’s mind was picketing in front of the board president’s house three years ago.